24 July 2008

Library trip

Today I went down the street to the library. Ostensibly, to get books on how to run my own business. As if there were a greater intelligence out there, the path to business books took me straight past... that's right, knitting books! And cookbooks! I only got one knitting book and one cookbook and three business books.

The more I delve into this stuff, the more I realize how unnatural business is. In anthropology, we look to cultural values to explain behaviours and objects we can't understand. Once we get at the value, all becomes clear. Whether you agree with / like the value or not is besides the point; the cultural logic is always there for you to follow. At least you understand why people do what they do. My students who live on fast food might do it partially because it's cheap; but they also do it because to them, time is money - that's the underlying value that makes them spend as little time as possible on eating, as much time as possible on working.

But, with business, as the primary value is to fulfill basic needs - make money to first of all survive, and then to live in the manner in which I would like to become accustomed to living. Any other value - doing good, in whatever form - is layered on secondarily and artificially. Everything comes back to the bottom line. So, when looking at a company's behaviours and products, it has to be taken into account that they're doing it backwards: trying to instill values into behaviours and things that aren't necessarily or naturally there.

Not that I think that doing good for the sake of doing good is the only reason to do good. This is the old philosophical argument about altruism - how can it exist when you always get a return - even if it's just feeling good about yourself? And, is that a bad thing? If that's what motivates us to do good, that seems ok to me. So, with businesses, if it's the bottom line that's motivating them to do good, then is that necessarily problematic? Not really. It just makes it a bit more of a puzzle trying to make values stick to behaviours and objects rather than the other way around.

And that's how culture culture and organisational culture differ.

Now, how can I market this?

I started a new secret project yesterday. It involves my noro wool.

1 comment:

juicyknits said...

Now I'd like to know which books precisely you got (the business, the knitting and the cooking).